Friday, 17 November 2017

Winter has arrived (for now)

Cath visited from Edinburgh and this coincided with a great start to winter, but will it last, thats the million dollar question for many...

Views back South to Rothimurchas

On Saturday we limbered up by heading to the Cairngorms and walked up Meall a' Bhuachaille from Glenmore. It's Gaelic name means 'rounded hill of the herdsman'. I've wanted to walk this wee hill to the West of Cairngorm for some time and today it was really enjoyable in the winter conditions.

The top!

Cath heading down
Great views of the bigger hills, Bynack More, Braeriach and Cairngorm to name a few flicked in and out of the cloud and snow showers. It was a good vantage point to piece together parts of the forest too.

Ryvoan Bothy

Cath in the bothy

Loch Uaine (green lochan)
All too quickly we were up and over and decending down to the lovely Ryvoan Bothy. After a pit stop here we headed back past the Green Lochan and an alternative forest path to finish.

Snow here we come

Beautiful natural patterns
We all felt in the zone so planned to go for a munro in Strathfarrar on the Sunday. Strathfarrar is a beautiful glen West of home, but it has tricky gated access. In the summer you register, take a ticket, head up the glen and have to be let back out again before dusk. But I wasn't sure of the winter access rules.

Looking East to the Black Isle and sea
The internet suggested that it was open for car access all winter... We headed over at about 8:30am and to our surprise were faced with a 'glen closed' sign which helpfully informed us that it reopened to vehicular access in May!! Friction great! The further annoyance was that I only had the OS map for beyond the gates, where the munro was...

I started to think that the day was ruined, but after checking the (different) OS map on my phone realised that North of the gate/carpark was a Corbet, and it looked brilliant covered in fresh snow..

So it was a risk only having a map on my phone, but we decided to go for this hill as it looked beautiful, and to be honest we didn't have much choice at this point as we'd lose an hour or more going home for an alternative map.

Time to head back
We set off through an enclosed deer park set in a beautiful forest and headed for the snow line. Passing a hidden lochan it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a tough walk as there wasn't much of a path to follow, but it was amazing scenery.

Looking back
We got into the snow and it was fantastic, but such hard going on the pathless heathery terrain often in snow up to 12-18" deep. We climbed and toiled, snow showers blew in and out but for a while time stood still and we didn't seem to be getting any closer to the first top.

Eventually we got to Carn na Gabhalach, at just over 700m and realised we wouldn't get much further and back with the time available so called it a day and stopped at this point and soaked up the views before turning and heading for home.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Crushing at Fontainebleau

Just back from font... well a week or so ago! I think it has been 2 years since I was last in la forĂȘt of fontainebleau and boy have I missed the place. Like thousands of people I find the forest enchanting and love it. Somehow its just perfect, beautiful birch woodland, sandy paths, thousand upon thousand of boulders everywhere. I've been trying to work it out and I think this was my 9th trip to the forest.

Day 1 lunch!

Isatis (...maybe Sablon)

I headed out with Lana, who had never been to font so was in for a treat. The plan was to meet Dave and Rachael there. Unfortunately Rachael was a no show but Dave stopped off to depart some of his local knowledge enroute to his alpine spiritual retreat.

Chill time

Day 1 - saw us going to Isatis and Sablons, a really great area and we enjoyed lots of climbing and lots of lunch! Sunny weather added to the vibe - bliss.

Lana monkeying around!

Lana and Dave (love this problem which Dave takes me to every trip)

Day 2 - we got maybe 3 problems completed somewhere (?!) before the rain, and then it was a question of another big lunch followed a stroll around font itself and an exploration of the forest whilst awaiting the rain to stop... which it didn't.

Dodging the rain

Lunch day 2
Day 3 - we headed to Cul de Chien in magical crisp but sunny weather. It was busy as expected on the sands and around the famous roof problem/main area. In fact there was a car crash, but luckily no one was hurt.. Heading further east it was really quiet, and we found some lovely secluded sunny boulders. The grades seemed a bit stiff here though. I wandered further into the forest and found loads of red graded problems that looked neglected/not particularly climbed much (so much potential).

cul du chien

car crash!
After yet another fika break and quick 'rest' we hopped across to the 91.1 area for the last few hours. Wow! I was very impressed with this area, lots of highball boulders, and I can't quite put my finger on why it was great and different to cul de chien but it was.. The last rays of light disappeared as we headed out of the forest back to the car after a really great font day.

5b at 91.1

Day 4 - We only had the morning before our flight back so quickly went to Bois Rond. I like this place and it was nice to be here on a sunny morning as the light flicked in and out between the branches. I'd really wanted to end the trip with a font 6a, but all I could muster was a 5b (!). After a few problems and some meditation we headed back, dropped off the hired pads and headed for CDG.

A fantastic trip with lots of pizza and figs (main dietary intake), great problems and mediocre company ;-) HA!

So I'm now back in the far North and I've started my font 2018 training regime. Will 2018 be the year of 6s at font (who really cares!). :-)

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Quiet ride in the Cairngorms

Luckily the weather forecast was spot on and I arrived in Aviemore just as the heavy rain was stopping and sky brightening. I headed down towards Glen Feshie wanting to explore this area more by bike ignoring the honey pot trails of Rothimurchas.

Love Feshie
The ride went South from Glen Feshie following the river for a good while, passing some dilapidated farms/crofts with expansive views of the Glen Feshie Munro's before swinging West through forest to  Drumguish where I picked up the Badenoch Way back to Feshie Bridge.


Some of the great Badenoch single track
The ride was great and had everything on it, forest track, single track, mud, dry, no people. I'm going to look at the map and see how I can extend it to explore this amazing area more.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Whats best, East or West...?!

I've managed to get a few good days climbing in over the last couple of weeks. A week or so ago I went back to Latheronwheel on the East coast between Helmsdale and Wick. It's a great spot with fairly friendly sea cliff's to climb.

Gives an idea of Latheronwheel
The routes are fairly compact, no bigger than 18-20m, and generally you abseil onto non-tidal platforms to start from. Highlights were Guillemot Crack, a great slightly overhanging off width HVS (loads of handholds on the sides of the wide crack luckily), and another HVS (the name escapes me!) which starts in a shed sized cave just above the water line which we had to traverse into.

Great rock at Latheronwheel
Poor Jack had to belay in the cave with a rising tide (the cave does flood out apparently) whilst I climbed out of sight on the wall above! Luckily it all ended well apart from nearly losing a coat that Jack briefly sent for a swim in the sea before fishing it out. There are loads of great routes here, and I've never seen any other climbers here!

Out to sea, the Isles from Ardmair
Then this Saturday just gone I headed to Ardmair near Ullapool with Loz and Jack. It was great to tempt Loz out from 'house work' for a climb (he's near the end of a house build).

Acrimonious Acrobat a stunning E1 at Ardmair

On one of the few VS's